In a recent post titled Search Quality Highlights: 40 Changes for February, Google’s Amit Singhal wrote about some of the latest changes Google has introduced to its different algorithms including an amendment to its previously known Panda update. I have published a list of top 50 winners and losers of Google Panda earlier today and could not understand why Amazon.com was one of the top losers, it was a complete anomaly so I had to dig deep to see if I could find out the underlying reasons.
Looking at the published data, Amazon.com’s SEO visibility drop also caught the attention of Branko Rihtman, he pointed out that perhaps the data on Amazon.com was probably not accurate. Martin Bryant from The Next Web also thought this data was not accurate, in his email he pointed out that the data that he was looking at was different to what I had published. So I investigated this issue further by isolating it from the rest of the data set and realized that Martin was actually looking at US search result’s data while my study was purely focusing on UK. Thanks to Branko and Martin’s input I realized what was happening but still wasn’t sure, here is what I found.
As you can see in the following chart, Amazon.com has been hit severely in the UK SERPs losing almost 50% of its visibility in UK search results – yes 50% that is huge!
Now take a look at Amazon.co.uk’s search visibility in the UK over the course of past couple of months – bear in mind all data is based on the last 2 months. As you can see below, Amazon.co.uk’s search visibility has increased significantly, you can clearly see the spike.
At this stage and to some extent it was clear what had happened. By the looks of it, Google’s latest update favours local sites over their counterparts, which makes sense. This is of course referred to in the latest post by Amit Singhal where he states:
Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.
Improved local results. We launched a new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.
While this was quite convincing, I tried to study a couple of other site with similar international and local domain names to see whether Amazon was a unique case or not. So the next best target was Ebay, here are my findings:
As you can see above, Ebay.com has been hit as well particularly in the last couple of weeks. I think by now you know what is coming, here is Ebay.co.uk’s search visibility graph.
Similar to Amazon.com, Ebay.com has been hit in the UK but the relevant .co.uk versions have seen a significant improvement. I have looked at some other examples as well, they too reflect the same scenario. I think both Amazon and Ebay would have the correct GEO target settings in GWT so it is not like they would have changed their country targeting all of a sudden which would cause this.
Data Source: Searchmetrics